CHC freshman Dexter Harris slips inside and elevates towards the rim in Saturday’s conference opener. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Fans of the men’s basketball squad at Chestnut Hill College were delighted to see their team win the 2012-2013 home opener last Wednesday, but the players themselves knew it would be more important to come away with a victory in their Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference debut three days later.

This second objective eluded the Griffins on Saturday afternoon, when the Deacons of visiting Bloomfield (N.J.) College took home a 90-75 victory. Bloomfield, the two-time defending conference champion, never trailed after going up 28-27 with six minutes remaining in the first half.

The Deacons (2-0 CACC, 4-3 overall) were ahead by 11 at halftime, but more than 14 minutes into the second period, the Griffins only trailed by five points before the visitors began their final surge. The New Jersey ballclub tacked 10 more points onto their lead after that, though, and Chestnut Hill slipped back beneath the .500 mark overall after attaining a 3-3 record with Wednesday’s 84-80 overtime win over the New York Institute of Technology.

In Saturday’s CACC setback, the Griffins got a double/double (15 points/ 10 rebounds) from sophomore center Seamus Radtke. Another second-year big man for CHC, Alssene Saintilus, was second in scoring with 14 points, but the fact that he was also second in rebounding with only four ‘boards wasn’t a positive indicator. The Deacons outperformed the Griffins on the glass, 42-32.

“We’ve been outrebounded in other games, but played better than did in this one,” said CHC head coach Jesse Balcer. “What concerned me more was that we didn’t defend well enough at the end of the game. We had lapses where we just didn’t play hard enough and we couldn’t stop them.”

Saintilus spearheaded the hosts’ offense in the first half, netting a dozen points, while powerful forward Kevin Udo shouldered the load for Bloomfield, recording 18 of his game-high 26 points (with nine rebounds) before the intermission arrived.

“He’s a great player, though he’s not really known for his scoring,” CHC’s Balcer said of the Deacons junior. “But since we couldn’t do anything with him, they kept on feeding him. We didn’t have an answer.”

The teams seesawed through the first dozen minutes or so, and with the count even at 26-all, CHC sophomore Torrell Candelaria hooped the first of two free throws. The resulting 27-26 edge would turn out to be the Griffins’ last lead of the night, as the Deacons’ Jon Bradley bagged back-to-back buckets in the paint and his squad stayed in front the rest of the way.

Returning from a time-out late in the first period, Chestnut Hill had sophomore Luke Dickson drain a jumper from the left baseline to bring the Griffins within six points at 39-33. However, Bloomfield’s Udo scored his last points of the half off of a rebound and Deacon guard Terry Hicks hoisted a “three” in the final minute for a 44-33 halftime tally.

The Griffins made some inroads into the visitors’ lead in the second half, but the Deacons always remained at least a few buckets ahead. Radtke completed his scoring for Chestnut Hill with a pair of free throws with 5:45 left on the clock, making it a five-point game at 71-66, then the visitors went on an 8-0 spree.

Four made free throws by CHC junior Jakeem Bogans (a member of the final graduating class at Cardinal Dougherty High School) were sandwiched around a successful drive by Candelaria, reducing the gap to seven points (79-72) with 2:45 to go.

Both teams were in the bonus, and two flawless one-and-one efforts by the Deacons’ Marvin Williams contributed to an 11-0 charge by Bloomfield that took the game down to its final half-minute. Candelaria connected for a three-pointer from near the top of the key, putting the final score up in lights while finishing with six points. Senior guard Mark DiRugeris netted most of his 11 points for the Griffins early in the second half, helping to keep his club in contention until later in the game.

While the lack of defensive stops was most troubling to Balcer, the CHC skipper noted some flaws on offense, as well.

“There were times in the game when we came down and shot without even passing the ball,” he said. “Hopefully, our guys will look at the film and realize the difference it makes when you come down and you share the ball, and look for the best available shot. When we do that, our offense works much better, and that’s true for pretty much every team.”

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